Bangalore: Leaders of the Catholic Church in India have reiterated their commitment to the liberation of the weaker sections in the country such as tribals, women and dalits.
A statement issued at the end of its eight-day general assembly on March 9 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said that the Church will reach out more to unorganized groups such as fisher-people, farmers, migrants, domestic workers, victims of trafficking.
It will do this through advocacy and networking with non-governmental organizations and other like-minded groups and individuals dedicated to the cause of the poor, the statement added.
At least 178 bishops from 171 dioceses belonging to Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malabar Churches addressed the theme “The response of the Church in India to the present day challenges.”
The conference’s 32nd plenary identified poverty, growing gap between the rich and the poor, corruption, illiteracy, child labor, unemployment, growing addiction to alcohol and drugs as some of the major challenges facing the nation.
Among the other challenges identified were, narrow unitary cultural nationalism, sensationalism and dictatorship of the media, systematic concerted manipulation of the educational system, opposition to the fundamental human right of religious conversion of every human being, widespread intolerance, religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, attack and atrocities against intellectuals, social activists, religious people and institutions.
The bishops proposed to follow-up with the government the need to treat the Christian dalits on par with their Hindu counterpart.
Addressing a press conference on the last day of the assembly, CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis said the dalit Christians are denied reservations and other benefits by the government because “they are Christians.’’
He also expressed concern over the growing trend of fundamentalism and communalism in the country. According to him secularism in the Indian situation should not mean anti-religion, anti-spirituality or anti-faith.
No one should have any monopoly over any religion, he asserted.
Introduction of positive measures to integrate Christians of dalit origin along with others in the Church through education and employment was another proposal recommended by the CBCI.
Some other proposals were strengthening advocacy on the socio-political, economic and cultural rights of tribals, advocating and networking to address the issues of land alienation, induced displacement of people, human trafficking and migration, showing sensitivity to the differently-abled people, alleviating the plight of the farmers in distress and preventing suicide of them, and fostering gender equity and providing greater role for women.
Describing the CBCI statement as pastoral plans, Cardinal Cleemis said that it will be sent to all the 171 Catholic dioceses and parishes that come under them.
The implementation of the plans and proposals will also be evaluated after two years.
The CBCI’s objectives include advocating on national issues, making representation to the government and working with the government, and networking with other Christian churches, organizations, civil society and people of other faiths.
The March 2-9 assembly concluded with a Mass presided over by the CBCI president and assisted by the officers and other bishops.